George Frederic Watts, Hope,  1886, Oil on canvasTate Britain, London.

To be the last of the great is no guarantee that your greatness will last. The grandest of the English pompiers, Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830–1896), died the day after inheriting his peerage. The reputation of Leighton’s friend and longtime neighbor George Frederic Watts (1817–1904) has lasted better than most. This is not just because Watts spread his bets among Titianesque psychological portraits, discreetly radical social comment, and flagrant mysticism on the grand scale, not forgetting murky landscapes and a bit of monumental sculpture on the side. It is...


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